‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’: From critical raves to Oscar contender?

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Could “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars? It didn’t get any nominations from the Golden Globes, SAG Awards, or Critics’ Choice Awards, but that’s because the film didn’t screen in time to compete at any of those races. Instead, in unspooled for press on December 14 and 15 in advance of its highly anticipated December 18 release. And the flood of reviews indicate a potential last-minute Oscar ambush.

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“Star Wars” is at 82 on MetaCritic based on 41 reviews, and 97% freshness on Rotten Tomatoes. Those MetaCritic numbers are on par with “Avatar” (83), which earned Oscar noms for Best Picture and Best Director, while the Rotten Tomatoes score is much higher than “Avatar” (which was 83% fresh). Since Rotten Tomatoes grades on a pass/fail system, that indicates that “Star Wars” is less divisive.

Among the leading film critics nationwide who were the most enthusiastic: 

Joe Morgenstern (Wall Street Journal): “Disney, the new proprietor, and J.J. Abrams, the director, haven’t diluted the appeal of this space opera for the ages. Far from it, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” flatters old and new audiences alike, and straddles generations with aplomb.”

Brian Truitt (USA Today): “Set aside worries about the second coming of “The Phantom Menace.” With a cast of entertaining new characters, heartfelt scenes, huge planetary battles and no qualms about being very funny or very dark at times, director J.J. Abrams’ “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” returns the iconic sci-fi franchise to a glorious place that hasn’t been seen since Ewoks danced off into victory in “Return of the Jedi” 32 years ago.”

Manohla Dargis (New York Times): “Mr. Abrams may be as worshipful as any “Star Wars” obsessive, but in “The Force Awakens” he’s made a movie that goes for old-fashioned escapism even as it presents a futuristic vision of a pluralistic world that his audience already lives in. He hasn’t made a film only for true believers; he has made a film for everyone (well, almost).”

Todd McCarthy (Hollywood Reporter): “The Force is back. Big time. As the best “Star Wars” anything — film, TV show, video game, spinoff, what-have-you — in at least 32 years, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” pumps new energy and life into a hallowed franchise in a way that both resurrects old pleasures and points in promising new directions.”

However, not all of the reviews were as worshipful with Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles Times) being the most dismissive: “Director J.J. Abrams and fellow screenwriters Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt have come up with some potent new characters and outstanding moments. When all goes as partisans hoped it would, you’re glad you’re in the room. But “The Force Awakens” is also burdened by casting miscalculations and scenes that are flat and ineffective. Sometimes the Force is with this film, sometimes it decidedly is not.”

Do you think “The Force Awakens” is a force to be reckoned with at the Oscars?

Oscar experts’ predictions: Ridley Scott (‘The Martian’) will win Best Director

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“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” photo credit: Walt Disney Pictures

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